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Travel restrictions may be too late: Experts


Nov 30, 2021 01:36:52 PM

Travel restrictions may be too late: Experts Experts have warned that travel restrictions may be too late to stop the new Omicron variant from circulating globally.

Professor of psychology Stephen Reicher, a member of the UK subcommittee advising on the response to COVID-19 says travel restrictions wouldn’t prevent the spread of the new variant.

“Any border restrictions are only about buying time. So if we slap them on quickly but drag our feet in doing everything else, it really is a waste of time,” he told The Guardian.

He said measures such as working from home and vaccine passports, which has been abandoned in the UK, alongside compulsory mask wearing, social distancing and contract tracing should be part of the arsenal to tackle the spread.

Dr Boghuma Kabisen Titanji, a virologist and global-health expert at Emory University in the US, said evidence shows that by the time a travel ban is implemented, the virus has generally gone well beyond the borders of the country it was detected in.

“Instituting travel bans as a knee-jerk reaction can send the wrong message to countries that are contributing to the global effort of virus surveillance. We could end up disincentivising countries from reporting because they fear retaliation,” she told The Atlantic.

She said other measures could be taken to ensure travel is safe, such as only allowing the fully vaccinated to fly or requiring proof of a negative COVID-19 test.

“We will be better served if we put the emphasis on the countries that have seen the highest number of cases of this new emerging variant: providing them with the resources to actually contain the variant, and making sure that they have the resources for testing, for isolating cases, for doing the science that we need to better understand Omicron.”

Dr Titanji is confident the emergence of the Omicron strain would not put the world back to “square one” and said the vaccines already administered are not “completely useless”.

“We have not yet seen a variant of concern emerge that has been able to completely escape the effect of vaccines.

“The immunity from the vaccines may be less protective, which may translate into more post-vaccine infections from a new variant, if it takes off. But that is yet to be determined. We also know that a booster dose really does boost the antibody response,” she added.

By Reginald Chandar


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